Jeopardy! has had its fair share of Jewish moments. In fact, they had an entire category devoted to Yiddish theater in 2021 and the show’s new host, Mayim Bialik, is Jewish and identifies as Modern Orthodox.
This week Jeopardy! devoted an entire category to “Jewish American traditions” with questions about latkes, tzedakah and the Passover seder – right in time for Jewish American Heritage Month in May.
What is Tzedakah?
Tzedakah is a Hebrew word literally meaning “righteousness” or “justice.” It is commonly understood to signify Jewish charity, which is a little different from the classic Western understanding of “charity.” In Judaism, charity is not a choice or marker of generosity. Tzedakah is an ethical obligation mandated by the Torah also known as a “mitzvah” or law.
In some Jewish homes you will see a ‘pushke’ – Yiddish for little box or tin can – meant for tzedakah. Many Jews put some coins in the pushke before Shabbat or certain holidays.
What is a seder?
On Passover, it is traditional to hold a Passover dinner called a seder, where the Passover story is told and reenacted. The purpose is to remind Jews that our people were enslaved in a land not our own.
“In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt,” the traditional Ashkenazi Haggadah reminds. (Learn more about how to celebrate Passover.)
What is a Bat Mitzvah?
When a Jewish girl turns 12, she automatically becomes a Bat Mitzvah or a ‘legal adult’ in the Jewish tradition.
What is Chinese food?
During Justice Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2010, she had a very witty, Jewish moment.
South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham was about to ask Kagan whether terrorists like the Christmas Day bomber in Detroit should be given Miranda warnings before being questioned for intelligence information.
“Where were you on Christmas Day?” Graham asked, setting up his line of questioning.
Kagan could see where he was headed.
“That is an undecided legal issue,” she said.
“I just asked you where you were on Christmas?”
“You know, like all Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant,” the justice replied.
The hearing room erupted in laughter followed by applause.
What are latkes?
Latkes are the Hanukkah food because on top of the endless variations you can make, Jews seem to have very strong opinions on not only how to make them but also on how to serve them.
As it happens, some form of a fried pancake has been served up on Jewish tables since the Middle Ages. (Read more on the history of latkes.)
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Originally Published May 17 2022 12:56AM EDT